Monday, August 22, 2016

MMGM: The Magic Mirror: Concerning a Lonely Princess, a Foundling Girl, a Scheming King, and a Pickpocket Squirrel

To be honest, I’m a bit of a reluctant fantasy reader or maybe it’s just that I came to fantasy late in my adult years. I never read fantasy as a child (except for the Narnia series), and though I tried very hard to make my way through the Hobbit, I never could through the lush description. However, then I discovered “light” fantasy--that is fantasy with a realistic touch—and the retellings of Gail Carson Levine and Shannon Hale. I love that kind of fantasy, where the setting is like the real world with a few differences.

I’m so happy to find a new book that fits my fantasy ideal, THE MAGIC MIRROR, one of the most immersive reads I’ve had in a while.

Here’s the synopsis (from Amazon):

The twisty-turny journey of a girl searching for her heart’s desire—glimpsed in a magic mirror. Perfect for fans of Rump or Catherine, Called Birdy

A foundling girl with a crooked leg and a crutch doesn’t expect life to be easy. Indeed, Maggie’s dearest wish is to simply not feel so alone. So when she spies a man behind bars in a magic mirror said to show one’s truest desire, she feels sure he is the father she’s always longed for—and she sets off on a quest to find him.

Along the way, Maggie meets both kindly pilgrims and dastardly highwaymen. She discovers she bears a striking resemblance to the princess Petranilla. Their connection is so remarkable that Petra believes Maggie must be her lost sister who fell from the castle wall and was swept downriver as a baby.

What a turn of fate! From reviled foundling to beloved royal! But being the lost princess turns out to be more curse than blessing given the schemes of the current king...  And if Maggie’s a princess, then who is the man she spied in the magic mirror?

This is a grand middle grade adventure story full of mistaken identities, lost loves, found families, and a tantalizing tinge of magic

What to love about MAGIC MIRROR:

1. A fantasy set in a lush, realistic setting: While the names and places of the book are purely fictional, the details of the time and place are not. Like Karen Cushman’s work, this book oozes with medieval details. Let’s just say I’m thankful that the days of having fleas and nicks as your daily companions are over.

2. Well-rounded characters: This novel is like a tapestry with many interesting threads. Each character is so real with a well-developed personality and back story. While there is a lead character, Maggie, there aren’t minor or secondary characters in the usual sense. Like a Dicken's novel, each character's journey intersected with others.

3.  Multiple points of view: Now typically I’m not a big fan of multiple points of view, but it really worked well for this novel. First, it allowed for several different stories in different locations to be going at once, and it also allowed depth of characterization for all the characters.

4. Faith was not sidelined: Now this is not a religious book per se, but I’ve often read books set in the Middle Ages where faith is not part of the story at all. This doesn’t ring true for me, since faith was central to this time period. In MAGIC MIRROR one of the main characters, who’s an orphan, is an apprentice to a monk, who was once a soldier.  This felt very realistic for that time—as there were few places for orphans to go but to the church.

5. A story that keeps you guessing: There were a lot of twists and turns in this story and once I thought I had it figured out, something would change. There are a lot of fantasy stories about commoners who don’t know they are princesses, but I loved how Long turned that trope on its head.

By the way, I was very happy to see that the author, Susan Hill Long, is an Oregonian like me. I’m always happy to support my fellow Northwest writers.

I think MAGIC MIRROR would appeal to fans of Karen Cushman, Gail Carson Levine or Shannon Hale. Enjoy!

Have you read any interesting fantasies lately?

(This post contains an Amazon affiliate link, only because it's easier for me to post book covers that way. Thank you for your support!)

To check out more Marvelous Middle Grade suggestions, check out Shannon Messenger's blog. 


  1. Yes, fantasy stories are much different than what Tolkien wrote. I love fantasy. This sounds like a really good one with the great characters and world building. Glad you liked it.

    1. I think you'd like this one, Natalie!

  2. Oozes with medieval details - that's good. And bonus it includes faith.
    Every genre has a light version, including science fiction. Those are perfect for those who've never ventured into that particular genre.

    1. Nice to know there's sci-fi light as well. I think that's what I tend to like, more Twilight Zone-type stuff.

  3. I also like these type of fantasy stories. I'll be tracking this one down for a future read.

  4. Have you read Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman? Your description reminded me just a little bit of that book. Light fantasy has always appealed more to me than high fantasy.

    1. Oh, yes, I have, Joanne! What a delightful book. The heroine of Magic Mirror is a lot like Maggie.

  5. This sounds like my kind of book, can't believe I haven't heard of it. Charming. Thanks for your review!

  6. This sounds like a winner, one I should read with the kids. They get so impatient these days and run off with the book, but I'm betting they'd both love this one.